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September 27, 2016

Behaviors of a Flourishing Culture

By Shelley G. Trebesch

Remember, leaders establish culture through what they teach and model, as well as by what they pay attention to, reward and sanction. Imagine Jesus is the leader of your church (Hopefully he is! But in the sense similar to when he walked this earth.)

What would you experience? What might you feel? How might you belong? How would you know you belong? What would happen if you failed or did something wrong? What would happen if you succeeded?[1]

In contrast to the cultural milieu of ancient times, which we can describe as:

  • highly stratified,
  • clear definitions of who’s “in” and who’s “out,”
  • only certain people lead based on birth and social status,
  • religion happens through maintaining the Law (Jews) or appeasing gods (Romans),[2]

Jesus prophetically welcomes the “sinners,” disregards all stratification (eating with “unclean,” “clean,” the poor and the wealthy), invites the unexpected to lead (fishermen, tax collector, women) and demonstrates God’s kingdom reign / shalom through good news, healing, deliverance and ultimately through conquering sin, death and Satan.

For those whose lives were languishing or squelched, whether because of demons, other spiritual, emotional or physical sicknesses or some combination of these, [Jesus] offered release and participation in a fully flourishing life. This kingdom-of-God-oriented community was to partake fully in God’s triune life and extend this life to others.[3]

In my studies of the gospels, I note a pattern of four behaviors Jesus models in order to establish a flourishing culture.

  1. Authentic engagement. Jesus traveled, ate, slept, drank and ministered with his partners. He knew people’s heart, concerns, disappointments and joys. He also allowed others to know him. “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from the Father.” Jn. 15:15. No secrecy. No hiddenness.
  2. Invitation to participate. Jesus invited men and women to participate in God’s reign and share that reign with others, even when they didn’t have it all together, even when they inevitably failed. No special lineage, schooling, gender, or social status was needed.
  3. Empowerment. It’s one thing to participate. It’s another to have the authority and power to do so. Jesus gave this as well. He sent the disciples with power and authority, Lk. 9-10. Later, Jesus and the Father sent the Holy Spirit to empower those who first witnessed Jesus’ life. Of course, this Holy Spirit empowerment extends to us.
  4. Corrects life-squelching beliefs, attitudes and actions. Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites, because they had lost sight of God’s compassion and love. They would rather a man suffered with a withered hand than for that hand to be healed on the Sabbath. Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath, because it’s better to “do good” and “save life” (Lk. 6).[4]

The above behaviors established a flourishing culture—a reproducing, life-oriented environment where anyone could experience God’s true heart. These patterns provide a framework for us, too, for our modeling, teaching and attention, to create a flourishing culture. More ideas for this will come in the next blog post.

Make sure to watch the NewChurches.com Q&A Webinar with Shelley Trebesch.  This webinar is part of Plus Membership, so to get access to it, and much more, I encourage you to become a Plus Member.  Click here to see all the benefits of becoming a Plus Member.

[1] Shelley Trebesch, Made to Flourish: Beyond Quick Fixes to A Thriving Organization (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 103.

[2] For more robust descriptions, see Made to Flourish, p. 104.

[3] Ibid., 105.

[4] Ibid., 106-107.


Shelley G. Trebesch

Shelley G. Trebesch (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) has served as vice president for capacity development for Prison Fellowship International, as well as assistant professor of leadership and organization development at Fuller Theological Seminary and in Singapore as global director for Membership Development for OMF International. An active consultant, trainer and seminar leader, Trebesch has facilitated complex change processes and developed leadership curricula for churches and organizations around the world.


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